Kathy Haney manages changes at Outdoor Lifestyle
Kristine Ellis -- Casual Living, August 1, 2007
When Kathy Haney took a temp job back in the late 1980s at the Rubbermaid/Allibert manufacturing facility in Stanley, N.C., little did she know it would change her life. She had already worked in several industries, never staying long in any one place. But all of that experience was preparing her for what was to come.
When the Rubbermaid/Allibert joint venture split in the early 1990s, Haney stayed with Rubbermaid. But it wasn't long before she made another change. In 1992, Doug Austin, then owner of Outdoor Lifestyle in South Africa, approached her to run his company's new U.S. operations.
Haney became the first, and for more than a year the only, Outdoor Lifestyle employee in the United States. She did everything from cold-calling her old Rubbermaid/Allibert customers to answering phones and loading and unloading trucks. Then everything changed again when the Ilse family bought the company
"They walked in one day and said, 'You report to us now and we're giving you a title, a large raise and some help,'" she said. "That was 15 years ago."
Since then change has continued to be a constant, paralleling the growth of the company. Outdoor LifeStyle now has full representation in both the specialty and contract markets, and a staff of about 30 people. What hasn't changed is Haney's ability to be a jack of all trades, taking on whatever needs to be done and doing it well. While her title may be vice president of operations and sales, she also manages marketing, human resources and customer service.
Haney describes her leadership style as all about respect.
"I try to treat people the way I want to be treated," she said. "If there is a rush or large order, for instance, I don't just say, get this out. I explain what's going on. We really operate as a team here, and I make sure that everyone understands that they are important to the big picture."
Having gained her leadership skills in the trenches, she views everything as a learning experience.
"My varied background provided the tools that I still fall back on," she said. "A lot of it is common sense, but it all goes back to respect."
In some ways, Haney is the quintessential face of the casual industry — high energy, passionate and always ready to have fun. She loves what she does in part because of the close friendships she's developed over the years.
"The beauty of it is that you get to do business with friends, and that's a wonderful thing," she said.
Looking back, she is most proud of her contributions to helping the company grow and in building its future potential.
"We aren't a big manufacturer but we are now part of the picture," Haney said. "We are producing quality products, getting specified on the contract side and bringing out new products that are very exciting, very innovative. The direction the company is going is very positive and there are many good changes ahead."
Haney plans to be there for all of them.